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 Post Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 11:55 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:50 pm
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Hey Teams!

This past weekend (1/12/2013) was the second weekend of competition for the TCEA 2012/2013 "Molecule Mania" season. I was in attendance in New Braunfels for the Area 13/20 competition, and was able to see first-hand how the teams attacked this year's challenge. Some of the strategies employed were quite impressive, some were extremely consistent, and some were ... not so much. :o

I wanted to comment on some of what I saw at the tournament. I am NOT attempting to make any statement about teams that competed in the Areas 13 and 20 - I think much of what I saw at the tournament is representative of teams overall, and aren't specific to this area. However, I fear that the teams who would be helped most by this information don't read this forum anyway.

  1. Bill of Materials - Teams more often than not showed up to the match with an unproperly-formatted Bill of Materials. There is an example of a properly-formatted Bill of Materials in the rules, and I expect a Bill of Materials to be of that format and contain the information the way that example Bill of Materials has. Teams that move on to the State tournament will be REQUIRED to have a properly formatted Bill of Materials in order for it to be accepted for points, NO MATTER if what you submitted at Area was deemed "sufficient." No exceptions. Also, teams came to the table with items on the robots that were not on their bill of materials (rubber bands, zip ties, tie wraps, plastic sheets, etc...); if there are items clearly on your robot that are non-LEGO that are clearly not on your BOM, your BOM will not be accepted.
  2. Robot Repositioning - Many teams seem to not have read the rules very carefully, and also did not read the forum where we clarified the fact that THIS YEAR, robots that return on their own to the Robot Start Zone MAY NOT BE RESTARTED WITHOUT A PENALTY. Many intermediate teams believed that if they drag game pieces to the Robot Start Zone, they'd be allowed to turn the robot around manually and reposition those items in front of the robot. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. This caused at least one team to run back to the pit area crying - clearly a lack of preparation and not reading the game rules carefully will cause big surprises at the event that nobody wants. Please read the rules to ensure the strategies you're attempting to use are legal.
  3. Touching the Robot with Items in the Robot Start Zone - It seemed that a couple of intermediate teams (from completely different schools/regions) got caught by not being allowed to touch the robot after repositioning/rearranging items in the Robot Start Zone. Their robots delivered items correctly, backed off so they were no longer touching the items, but the teams had to press the touch sensor on the robot to indicate they were done - pressing the touch sensor carries with it a TOUCH PENALTY (the touch sensor is part of the robot!) as well as the requirement that ALL ITEMS must be permanently removed from the Robot Start Zone; this was clearly not the team's desired/expected outcome. This, too, caused these teams grief.
  4. Robots that don't fit within the starting cube - On multiple occasions, robots came to the competition table and clearly did not fit within the starting cube. Sometimes the hard elements of the robots fit within the cube, but did not consider the WIRES as part of the robot which ALSO must fit within the same starting cube. Some teams tried to push the robot against the wall to compact the wires, but were reminded that the 12" cube is UNRESTRAINED. This means the robot cannot be touching the wall(s) when it is measured.
  5. Teams Resetting the Field DURING THE MATCH - At home when practicing, it may be normal/customary to reset the field if a particular attempt fails. However, at competition, if your robot fails to do what it is intended to do YOU MAY NOT RESET THE BOARD DURING THE MATCH. If the students touch the game pieces illegally, the items will be placed back in the positions they were in prior to the students touching them (to the best of the referee's memory, which may put the items in a worse position than they were in initially). Please impress upon your team members not to touch game pieces on the competition board (unless they're exercising Rule 5.0.7).

There are only 9 primary rules this year that govern the robot behavior and what you can and cannot do to the robot during the match. These rules are mostly found in Section 2 (page 10) and Section 5 (pages 24 and 25) and are:

  • Rule 5.0.2 - Robot Start Condition
  • Rule 5.0.3 - Robot Size Restrictions
  • Rule 2.2.4 - Starting the Robot at the Beginning of the Match
  • Rule 2.2.6 - Robots are autonomous (no outside control)
  • Rule 5.0.4 - Touching the robot in the first 60 seconds of play and "Touch Penalties"
  • Rule 5.0.5 - Touching the robot in the last 60 seconds. This rule is modified at State.
  • Rule 5.0.6 - What you're allowed to do while the robot is disabled.
  • Rule 5.0.7 - Intermediate Rearrangement Freedom
  • Rule 5.0.10 - Recovering the robot without a penalty.

Additionally at State, there are 4 rules that modify rules/points/rankings:

  • Rule 5.1.1 - Additional points for "wheels off mat" Finishing Move.
  • Rule 5.1.2 - NO robots (intermediate/advanced) can be recovered in last 60 seconds.
  • Rule 5.1.3 - 3rd Catalyst being given to teams.
  • Rule 5.1.4 - Change in how teams are ranked at State.

Please point as many teams to this post, I hope we don't have the same issues crop up during the January 26 tournaments or at State.

-Danny


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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:54 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:56 pm
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Danny, I am just wondering if you aren't giving the next group an advantage over the groups that have already been to competition, especially the 3rd place teams hoping for an alternate spot.


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 Post Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:00 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:50 pm
Posts: 652
vlmac wrote:
Danny, I am just wondering if you aren't giving the next group an advantage over the groups that have already been to competition, especially the 3rd place teams hoping for an alternate spot.

If this were purely an academic question, the answer would be YES. However, we do not live in an academic world - we live in a practical one. Coaches of teams competing in a later tournament are not banned from watching/attending an earlier contest; schools are not banned from training their own referees and holding pre-competition scrimmages (also known as "district tournaments"); teams are not banned from posting on this forum "between contests" looking to clarify a rule that "bit" them at their competition (and having others read it); teams are not banned from posting their robot competition videos to Youtube. Teams that participate in chronologically later tournaments naturally have an advantage over groups that previously competed when any wildcard system is used that is based on points; later tournaments naturally score more points than earlier ones, even if the only variable is the extra preparation time.

I had a conversation with a gentleman today whose son attended a "district tournament" recently in an unnamed region. The referees at the district tournament called his son's team out on probably 80% of the items I identified here, and he called me up to verify - his son's team is attending one of the official tournaments being held this weekend. He claimed he didn't know this message board existed, claimed the coach for the team also did not know this, but was thankful that the "district tournament" caught the issues that it did. Did this "district tournament" give the team an advantage over teams that competed two weeks ago? Academically, yes. Practically, absolutely not. Every team/district/region has the ability to do this, even if they choose not to do it.

So what have I done? I see it as leveling the playing field. But honestly, the "top teams" have already known everything I've said - these are the teams that read this forum and are the ones I expect to see at State. The teams that are going to run into these problems are those that don't generally read the forum, and probably won't read this before the tournament anyway.

But let's cover one topic here that I want everyone to understand where I stand - I want all students to have a positive experience from Robotics. Showing up to the tournament with incorrect expectations about how the game is played is ANYTHING but a positive experience. Sure, the team may not win - that is secondary. Seeing their robot perform on the field, getting recognized for their accomplishments, and having a crowd clap/cheer for those accomplishments is what's of primary importance. My personal opinion is that if a parent wants their kid to win at all costs, let them do something else. If you want that kid to be inspired and even learn something, let them do robotics.

-Danny


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